Aussie marsupial species facing extinction threat from feral cats

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CANBERRA, June 17 (Xinhua) -- A marsupial species native to an Australian island is facing extinction due to bushfires and feral cats, a study has warned.

In a study published on Friday, a team from the University of Adelaide proved for the first time that feral cats prey on the Kangaroo Island (KI) dunnart, a mouse-sized carnivorous marsupial endemic to the island off the coast of South Australia (SA).

The already-endangered dunnarts were left on the brink of extinction when the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires severely burned 98 percent of their habitat.

Now study co-authors Louis Lignereux and Pat Hodgens and colleagues warned cats could be pushing them further to extinction.

Researchers analyzed the stomach contents of 86 feral cats that were captured and euthanized between February and August 2020 and found the remains of eight dunnarts in seven different cats.

They said that because a cat's digestion time is typically less than 36 hours the findings were significant.

"These findings represent the first confirmation that feral cats do prey on Kangaroo Island dunnarts, and suggests they are efficient hunters of this species given the small numbers of dunnarts that remain following the bushfires," said Lignereux.

"The combined pressures of a small, isolated population, natural disasters like bushfires, and introduced predators such as feral cats could lead to the extinction of this vulnerable species."

Previous studies have warned that feral cats pose a significant threat to Australia's biodiversity.

A research published in March found that cats and foxes kill a combined 2.6 billion animals in Australia every year including 1.4 billion mammals. Enditem

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